Mom charged in boy-on-van case pleads not guilty

Lawyer says accusation that woman drove with her son on top of minivan belies the caring mother she is

    A woman accused of strapping her 9-year-old son to the top of her minivan so he could hold down a kiddy pool as she drove down a Saukville street in September pleaded not guilty in an Ozaukee County courtroom Tuesday to the felony charge she faces.
    Amber L. Schmunk, who is charged with second-degree recklessly endangering safety, was trailed by photographers and reporters as she left Judge Sandy Williams’ courtroom after the brief hearing.
    “This is a very, very serious charge,” Schmunk’s lawyer, public defender Rachel Boaz, said, adding that the crime her client is charged with belies the caring mother she is.
    “I am very certain that throughout this trial process the jurors will see Ms. Schmunk as I do, which is as a very loving, very selfless and very devoted mother.”
    Schmunk, a former Fredonia resident who now lists a Town of Grafton address, was confronted by police officers on Sept. 9 after they received a report of a minivan driving in the area of Hillcrest and Claremont roads with a child on top of the vehicle holding down a plastic pool around 3 p.m., according to the criminal complaint.
WOMAN    A witness said the driver, later identified as 28-year-old Schmunk, eventually pulled over on South Colonial Parkway, took the child off the vehicle and wedged the pool in the minivan.
    When officers caught up with Schmunk, who dropped the pool off at her sister’s house on South Colonial Parkway, she told them that she had picked up the pool at someone’s house but had no way to strap it to her minivan. So, she said, she had her son climb on top of the vehicle and hold the pool while she drove, the complaint states.
    She said she only drove for a short time, maybe 20 to 30 seconds, before stopping and taking her son and the pool off the roof of the minivan, according to the complaint.
    Schmunk admitted to another officer that her oldest son was riding on top of her minivan as she drove but said he wasn’t in danger because she used a strap to tie the boy and the pool to the top of the vehicle, the complaint states.
    Schmunk also said she thought it was acceptable for her son to ride on top of the minivan because her father allowed her to do similar things when she was her son’s age, according to the complaint.
    Schmunk is free while she awaits trial in lieu of a $5,000 signature bond. She is scheduled to make her next court appearance on Jan. 16.
    The crime she is accused of is punishable by a maximum five years in prison and five years of extended supervision.



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